Sunday, December 21, 2014

Sunday Best: Catholic Skywalker Awards - Television 2014

With 2014 coming to a close, it is time for us to choose what the best entertainment of the year was.  And just as the Academy Awards have their "Oscars", so too the Catholic Skywalker Awards have their "Kal-El's"

To reiterate:  the reasons for choosing a Superman statue as it's award, and not something from Star Wars are 3-fold:

1.  The Catholic Skywalker Awards will cover movies, television, and comic books.  Superman is an icon for all three.
2.  The pose he has here, revealing his inner hero, is symbolic of the revelation of truth and beauty that we should find in all good art.
3.  It's a statue I actually own, so I can use this photo on my blog.

(My appreciation and judgment of a TV show should not be taken as a recommendation. Choosing to watch any of these films is the reader's responsibility)

And now we here at Catholic Skywalker would like to celebrate the best in Television this year.

There are a lot of wonderful programs out there that, unfortunately, time has not permitted me to see (I only caught up the Breaking Bad this year).

Shows we watch:

How I Met Your Mother
New Girl
The Middle
Parks and Recreation
The Big Bang Theory
The Soup
Raising Hope
Brooklyn 99
The Goldbergs
A to Z
The Walking Dead
Game of Thrones
Agents of SHIELD
The Flash
House of Cards
Amazing Race
Dancing with the Stars

Best Drama:

When Smallville was cancelled, I turned to the only other DC Comics show available: Arrow.  And that first season certainly had its share of rough patches.  The show had some growing to do.  The tone had some inconsistencies and the acting wasn't firing on all cylinders.  But Season 2 changed all of that.  Everything was kicked up a notch in terms of quality and scope.  The exterior threats of the season's Big Bad was mired by the internal trauma that was caused.  I found myself looking forward to this show more than any other and hanging on every episode.  The tying of the flashbacks more solidly to the modern storyline helped give emotional texture to the action.  And everything from the limo crash forward was heartbreakingly good.  And then there was the one line (which I will not spoil here) that made my mouth drop in the finale.  And Season 3 has continued that quality of story, acting, action, and theme.  The relationships have become more strained and complex and I can't wait to see what happens next.

-House of Cards
-The Flash
-The Walking Dead
-Agents of SHIELD

Best Comedy
The Big Bang Theory

As I wrote in when I declared this the #5 Sitcom of All Time: The comedy is broad.  There is no question about that.  But that is not a sin.  Sometimes a pleasant and enjoyable laughing diversion is exactly what the doctor ordered.

But what separates this show even more from Lorre's other shows is character development.  You don't really see a lot of change in these flat characters in the first few years.  But look at them now.  Sheldon stiller retains much of his quirks, but he has grown.  I especially look at the character of Howard.  I hated him for several years.  He was a lecherous jerk who reveled in his perversions (even frequenting prostitutes).  But he has grown up. 

 Now that we are in the 8th season, the show doesn't feel like it is slowing down. They are only now really exploring the deeper romance of Sheldon and Amy, the commitment issues of Leonard and Penny, and the strange rivalry between Howard and Stewart over Mrs. Wolowitz.   This is a sitcom that can still be mined for comedy gold after repeated viewings. And for that reason, it is the Comedy of the Year.

Parks and Recreation
A to Z
The Goldbergs

Best Actor in a Drama
Kevin Spacey - House of Cards

Season 2 of House of Cards is more stunning than the first.  In Season 1, Kevin Spacey's Francis Underwood was a deliciously conniving politician.  Sure, his deeds were underhanded, but the way he looked you in the eye and spoke directly to the camera made you feel like you were at the cool kids table of politics.  He gave you the inside dirt and you felt above everyone else.  But Season 2 made his transition from shady to irredeemably evil.  And it is a testament to Spacey's pure charisma that he can hold your attention on Underwood.  We should hate him and run from him.  But instead Spacey makes you hate him but want keep following him.  And the great thing about Spacey's performance as Underwood is that even when talks to you like he's opening up and being honest, that is when he is putting on his biggest show.

Steven Amell - Arrow
Clark Gregg - Agents of SHIELD
Johnny Lee Miller - Elementary
Andrew Lincoln - The Walking Dead
Benedict Cumberbatch - Sherlock

Best Actress in a Drama
Robin Wright - House of Cards

I started watching another political drama called Boss and the mayor's wife was calm, calculating, and sharp.  And while that performance was good, all I kept thinking was: she reminds me of Robin Wright from House of Cards.  The toughest part about playing this character of Claire Underwood is that her exterior is a completely stony, manipulated facade.  But unlike Francis, her conscience and her heart are not completely dead.  At the very least she feels the void and emptiness left by her dark choices.  And Wright uses that juxtaposition of coldness and heartache to maximum effect.  She believably goes from crying over the pain she's caused another to pushing Francis to inflict even larger injury against them.  Like Spacey's performance, she repels and attracts at the same time by the power of her acting skill.

Stana Katic – Castle
Chloe Bennet - Agents of SHIELD
Lucy Liu - Elementary

Best Supporting Actor, Drama
Tom Cavannaugh - The Flash

I have only been tangentially aware of much of Cavannaugh's work.  I saw a little of his comedy Ed and I caught his guest spots on shows like Scrubs.  But that did not prepare me for his work on the freshmen drama The Flash.  His Dr. Harrison Wells seems cold and aloof.  But Cavannaugh gives him so much power with the simplest looks and gestures.  Everything he says, every squint of his eye is pregnant with significance.  You can't help but feel the secrets that hide behind his coy smile and the raw power and devastation he could cause with them.  He takes charge of the screen and steals nearly every scene he is in.

Peter Dinklage – Game of Thrones
Jesse L. Martin - The Flash
Martin Freeman - Sherlock
Manu Bennet - Arrow
Kit Harrington - Game of Thrones

Best Supporting Actress, Drama
Melissa McBride - The Walking Dead

There is so much that I could say about Melissa McBride's wonderful performance as Carol on The Walking Dead.  One of the things that makes her performance so good is the amazing restraint that she shows.  Her Carol is a woman who has lost so much and has hardened.  I love her monologue where she says that pieces of her are burned away and she only feels like ashes.  You can see that in her performance.  But then those dams break, it is powerful.  Watching her say "Look at the flowers," as she forces herself to act or her resignation as she passes a gun across a table to Tyreese are two of my favorite moments of last season.  All of it works because of her portrayal.

Ming-Na Wen - Agents of Shield
Emily Brett Rickard - Arrow
Amanda Abington - Sherlock
Lena Heady – The Game of Thrones
Danai Gurira – The Walking Dead

Best Actor, Comedy
Josh Radnor - How I Met Your Mother

There were a lot of problems with the final episodes of How I Met Your Mother, which I chronicled already on this blog.  But that shouldn't take away from Radnor's swan song.  He was able to wring every drop of humor from his pathetic attempts at romance while prepping for Robin and Barney's wedding.  And then Radnor was able to do some incredible acting jujitsu and take that same energy to make you cry.  At the winter dinner he has with his wife at the Farhampton Inn, you watch him go from silly hilarity to soul-crushing sadness without taking a false step.  He ended his run on a truly high note.

Andy Sandburg - Brooklyn 99
Jim Parsons - The Big Bang Theory
Garret Dilahunt – Raising Hope
Joel McHale - Community

Best Actress, Comedy
Amy Poehler – Parks and Recreation

A common complaint about the Emmys is that the same people keep winning.  It is a complaint that I often have as well.  But in this case, I cannot withhold an award because of someone's repeated excellence.  Once again Amy Poehler takes the best actress spot. There are a lot of good women comedians out there, but Poehler is the funniest one working in television today. Her Leslie Knope is full of an insane amount of energy at which you work hard just to keep up. And it is very difficult to play someone fully sincere while at the same time not making them stupid. While Poehler's Knope is smart, she wears her heart on her sleeve. She gives herself over to any emotion she feels, like Homer Simpson if he were oriented towards public-spiritedness. What's great is watching Leslie try to overcome things that she can't. After she has a mini-breakdown from lack of sleep because of her heated campaign for city council, I dare you not to laugh.

Wendy McLendon-Covey – The Goldbergs
Kaley Cuoco – The Big Bang Theory
Patricia Heaton – The Middle

Best Supporting Actor, Comedy
Henry Zebrowski - A to Z

This was a show that was cancelled way too soon.  And the best part about it was Henry Zebrowski's Stu.  The character is not terribly original: he is the guy best friend who is pure id and brotherly loyalty.  But what set Zebrowski apart was his absolute commitment to Stu's strangeness.  There was an iintensityto how weird he was that pushed the material from being funny to being hysterical.  

Neil Patrick Harris– How I Met Your Mother
Danny Pudi – Community
Nick Offerman – Parks and Recreation

Best Supporting Actress, Comedy
Christin Milioti - How I Met Your Mother

One of the toughest things about Christin Milioti coming in and playing the part of the eponymous mother is that for eight years there had been build up to this perfect woman.  That would be daunting for any actress.  But Milioti more than delievered.  She brought warmth, intelligence, and pathos to what could have simply been an idealized facade.  And what was amazing was her quick chemistry with all of the costars.  Seeing her interact with the veterans of the show, you would think that she had been working with them for years.  That difficult task made to look easy is why she is this year's best supporting actress.

Aubrey Plaza – Parks and Recreation
Yvette Nicole Brown – Community
Alison Brie – Community
Martha Plimpton - Raising Hope
Mayim Bialik - The Big Bang Theory

Stay tuned next week for the CatholicSkywalker Awards for Best Movies of 2014


  1. I've tried watching Arrow, but it doesn't grab me. I like The Flash. Watching his guest appearances on Arrow to introduce the character, I wasn't sure it would work. But it's been good so far. I agree whole-heartedly about Tom Cavanaugh. Jesse L. Martin has been great, too. I have to disagree about Christin Milioti. I think it was the writing and all the retro-conning to make it look like she was around all along. They ruined what they had spent 8 seasons building-up! Mayim Bialik should have won the Emmy; she is the best supporting cast member on BBT.

    1. On Arrow, stick with it through Season 2. It is a show that got slowly, but progressively better.
      I agree about Jesse L. Martin. He brings a concreteness, a reality to this science fiction show.
      Mayim Bialik was a close second for me this year. I agree that there were lots of problems with the writing of the final season. But despite that Milioti's performance shone through. But agree to disagree.

      Thank you for your comments, sincerely. It means a lot that people actually read my ramblings and react to them.

      Merry Christmas!